COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The 11th-ranked Texas A&M men's tennis team is set to begin conference play in its inaugural season in the SEC with a road match against No. 43 South Carolina on Friday. First serve is slated for 4 p.m. (CT) at the Carolina Tennis Center.
Live scoring and video for the event can be found here: http://www.gamecocksonline.com/sports/m-tennis/spec-rel/tennis-live.html
"I know I speak for everyone in our program when I say that we have had this weekend circled as a new era in Aggie men's tennis," Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said on beginning conference play. "We are really looking forward to experiencing all the new venues in the SEC. Our players are extremely excited to compete this weekend."
Texas A&M (8-4), which climbed three spots in the most recent ITA national poll, looks to rebound after splitting matches with No. 17 Tulsa and No. 8 Oklahoma last weekend. Friday night, the Aggies took the wind out of the Golden Hurricanes early to cruise to a 5-2 victory. On Sunday, Oklahoma claimed the doubles point and five of six first sets in singles to take control early. The Sooners never relinquished the lead, as they handed Texas A&M a 5-2 loss.
In singles, Texas A&M is led by the pair of freshmen in 90th-ranked Shane Vinsant (8-3) and Harrison Adams (8-2), who are both tied for the team lead with eight wins apiece. Adams, the two-time winner and current SEC Freshman of the Week, improved to 6-0 from the No. 3 line with his two wins this past weekend. Vinsant, who has garnered the top honors for a freshman once this season, looks to improve on his 6-3 record at the No. 4 line. Sophomores Jeremy Efferding (6-3), Jordan Szabo (6-4),115th-ranked Jackson Withrow (5-3) as well as junior Junior Ore (4-6) round out the project singles lineup for Texas A&M.
The Aggies have been extremely strong in doubles thus far, losing the doubles point only three times over the 12 matches. The 17th-ranked tandem of Ore and Withrow, which climbed 23 spots in the most recent rankings, holds the team lead in doubles wins with an 8-2 record. The pair is 8-1 from the No. 1 doubles line. Following them is the 21st-ranked duo of Adams and Vinsant, boasting a 6-2 record. Including the fall, Adams and Visnant hold a 5-1 mark against ranked opponents. Finishing off the projected doubles lineup is the sophomore team of Efferding and Szabo with a 6-4 record.
"We know a little bit about this South Carolina squad and coaching staff as we faced them in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season," Denton said. "They have the majority of their team back and have added several solid players to their lineup. I expect a very difficult match as both teams will be fired up and excited to begin conference play."
South Carolina enters the match with a 9-4 mark on the spring. In their most recent outing, the Gamecocks dropped their match to No. 34 VCU, 5-2. Leading the charge for South Carolina is No. 105 Tsvetan Mihov with an 8-4 record, all from the No. 1 singles line. At the No. 2 line for the Gamecocks will most likely be Chip Cox, who holds a 6-4 record from that spot and a 7-5 mark overall. Andrew Adams leads South Carolina at the No. 3 position with a 3-1 record from the line, as well as a 3-3 overall record. Playing the No. 4 line will be Thiago Pinheiro, boasting an impressive 8-1 record on the season. Rounding out the projected singles squad for the Gamecocks is Harry Menzies (8-3) and Kyle Koch (6-7).
The Gamecocks hold a 20-8 mark overall in doubles play. Headlining the doubles squad is the 33rd-ranked duo of Cox and Mihov with a 6-3 record with all decisions coming from the No. 1 line. Playing the No. 2 doubles line will likely be the pair of Koch and Menzies with a 7-2 record. Finishing up the doubles lineup is the tandem of Pinheiro and Ben Barnette, which holds a 7-3 mark from the No. 3 doubles slot.
The last time these two squads faced off, Texas A&M shut out South Carolina, 4-0, in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season in Los Angeles.
"The season starts over for us on Friday," Denton said. "Just like it was important for our young team to get off to a good start on the road earlier in the year, starting SEC play on the right foot is even more important. All our non-conference contests have prepared us for this and I'm really interested to see how well our team responds."
Texas A&M continues its road trip on Sunday as it travels to Gainesville, Fla., for another match against an SEC foe in the University of Florida. To learn more about the Texas A&M men's tennis team, visit AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieMTEN on Twitter.